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Archive for June, 2016

A World of Assumptions “I assumed.” (Don’t assume.)



I’m in the advice giving business.

I try to practice what I preach, but it doesn’t always happen.

One bit of advice I often give is “Don’t assume. When you assume you know what someone is thinking, you know why something happened or you know what is going to happen next.  More often than not you’ll be wrong.”

Instead get curious.

Ask questions.

Find out.

Earlier this month I ignored my own advice with memorable consequences. Here is my story:

Long-time readers know of my passion for triathlons. I have been involved in the sport on and off for over thirty years. Ten years ago at the tender age of 56 I decided to really ramp things up and dove into the world of Ironman triathlons.

At 66 I remain involved at that level and am currently in the later stages of preparing for my sixth Lake Placid (NY) Ironman next month.

As part of that preparation, my son-in-law, Bill (my new protégé and soon to be fellow Ironman competitor) and our families traveled to Raleigh, NC the first weekend in June for the Raleigh 70.3 Half Ironman. The 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run is half distance of a full Ironman and would serve as a good measuring stick to see how our training was going.

This is what I call a “big boy” race—2,200 athletes from 42 states and 18 countries. This was the real deal—way above my pay grade. In a race like this, I would be an age group (AG)“participant” and not a serious competitor (I assumed).


The Swim

Race day dawned. We arrived at the lake and (I assumed) we would soon be donning our wetsuits. Well, not really, it turned out the water was 81 degrees. The horn for my group sounded and off we went without wetsuits. I had decided to try an experiment during this race. I would swim wide of the other swimmers, keep a steady pace and keep my heart rate low. That way when I finished the swim I would have more energy for the bike and run.

I have done countless races. I’m a middle of the pack swimmer. I know within 2-3 minutes (I assumed) what my finishing time will be.

The swim was in fact very relaxing. As I was exiting the water, I looked at my watch for the first time. Evidently I swam a little too wide and was little too relaxed. I was within three and a half minutes of missing the cut off!


The Bike

By now the bikes of the AGers around me were pretty much gone .

(I assumed). I know I’m not a serious competitor but this was embarrassing. I mean I’m not that slow.

The rule of triathlons is “when the swim is over, it’s over.” Same with the bike. You leave one discipline and move on to the next. Well I just wouldn’t let this one go. I was riding mad. That swim time, I told myself, was unacceptable—not that I could do anything about it now. I’m not a very fast cyclist and only can average about 15 mph on the bike (I assumed.) Turns out I was a tad off there, too.  I ended up averaging almost 20 mph and finished the 56 miles under 3 hours for the first time in my career.

The problem was I wasn’t gaining on the AGers in front of me (I assumed). “These guys must be unbelievable,” I thought, “because that was a great bike ride!”


The Run

I racked my bike, went to the bag holding my running gear and opened the bag.

No big deal (I assumed). Turns out we had had a little rain the night before and when I opened my bag, water poured out as if in a bucket. Everything was soaked. As I went to put one shoe on, I caught and tore off the tape that was taping my Achilles tendon.  I hadn’t planned on exposing the Achilles to a half marathon unsupported.

But off I went. As I was leaving the transition area, my eldest daughter, Rachel yelled, “Dad, you’re 2nd!” Second in the bike (I assumed).  I should be ranked pretty high there; I mean it was a really good bike.

The run in a nutshell was miserable. It was 91 degrees and baked asphalt made the real temperature closer to 100 degrees. There were two loops each containing a three-mile climb. My Achilles got really mad at me by mile 11 and barked at me all the way to the finish line.


The Aftermath

My finishing time was mediocre at best (I assumed) but when the race is finished it really doesn’t matter. My son-in-law finished about six minutes ahead of me. We rested for a bit, packed our things, and left. The awards would be given soon but there was no reason to stay (I assumed.)


What Actually Happened

The next morning I went to the race website. I was curious to see how I had fared against the real athletes in my AG. As I read the results, this is what I learned:

I was fourth in my AG coming out the swim. Many people reported swim times 10-15 minutes slower than usual and some missed the cut off.

I had the fastest bike time in my group, and by the time I began the run I was only eight minutes behind the leader.

I ended up holding my spot and finished second overall.

That was good enough to be a “podium finisher,” a coveted term in the Half Ironman and Ironman world.

But it gets better (or worse). It turns out the winner of each AG gets a slot in the 70.3 World Championship. If they pass on the slot it “rolls down” to the next place finisher.

The first place winner turned it down.

A spot in the World Championships was mine for the taking.

But you had to be present to personally accept it.

No podium (Though they are going to send me my second place award).

No World Championship slot.

But lots of lessons learned.


What I Learned and Will Remember

Assumptions skew our view of the world.

Assumptions need to be challenged.

Assumptions are much more often wrong than right.

Assumptions are misleading and can cause us to believe we “know” when we really don’t.

Assumptions cut off options.

Assumptions limit opportunity.

Assumptions can cause us to miss out.


Maybe my lessons apply to your life in some area.

Are you currently assuming things about your boss, your spouse, your kids, the job market, the economy, your future, your own abilities??


The list is endless but the results will almost always be the same—limited, misguided thinking and missed opportunities.


I don’t know where you need to change your thinking, but I guarantee next month in Lake Placid before my next race I’m going to ask a lot more questions and be a lot more curious!





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